Europe Dictionary: European Commission

Ece Kepekci adds an entry to the PDU’s European Dictionary.


The Treaty of the European Union identifies a total of seven institutions as the core administrative actors of the European Union. The main political actors in the European Union regarding governance are the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council. The intergovernmental explanation of the EU presumes that the fundamental decisions are taken by the governments of the member states. The supranational explanation on the other hand claims that there is an autonomous basis of European political authority separate from that of the member states’. The institutions of the European Union represent a combination of supranational and intergovernmental powers.

The European Commission was firstly established in 1951 as a nine-member “High Authority”. Today, it operates as a cabinet with a commissioner from each member state. The 28 commissioners are appointed by the Council (the heads of states) and once they are selected, they must surrender their national feelings to work for the common interest of the European Union. One of the 28 members is the president – currently Jose Manuel Barroso. The president is proposed by the European Council and then elected by the European Parliament. The Commission also consists of advisory committees and expert groups to gather information. Today, the Barroso Commission with the president Jose Manuel Barroso and the first vice president Catherine Ashton are still operating as the cabinet. The first Barroso cabinet took office in 2004.

The European Commission is presented as the main executive power of the European Union. It has the vital role of administration by monitoring the policies and making sure that all the policies and the decisions made by the member states are actually implemented. In addition to these, the Commission also operates as the guardian of treaties. If any of the member states go against any of the treaties of the European Union, the Commission has the power to intervene.

In addition to its executive role, the Commission plays a major role in the legislative process of the European Union by initiating the law-making process. However, the legislative powers of the Commission end after the initiation process. Once the policies are proposed by the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Council are in charge of redrafting and making changes in the policy negotiation phase.

Moreover, the Commission is also in charge of drafting the European Union budget and is responsible for every stage of this drafting.

According to the French philosopher Montesquieu, in order to have a democratic regime, there should be a separation of powers in the form of an executive, legislative and judiciary. By the separation of powers, Montesquieu meant that these three branches of power should be autonomous and should not overlap. In the European Union, it is not possible to see a clear separation of powers. By just looking at the duties of the European Commission we can see an obvious overlapping of the legislative and executive branches of power.

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